On February 10, the Museum of Modern Art launched one of its most extensive and expensive advertising campaigns in history when it reproduced 57 works from its permanent collection and plastered the images around Brooklyn's Atlantic-Pacific subway station. Then, this past Saturday night around 2 a.m., the installation was ambushed by two men. One was Poster Boy, or at least someone from his collective, a member of which was arrested earlier this month on criminal-mischief and misdemeanor charges. His accomplice was a less likely culprit: Doug Jaeger, the marketing executive who created the campaign for MoMA. Jaeger is CEO of the brand-management agency the Happy Corp and president of the prestigious Art Directors Club.
Wearing official MoMA jackets, the two convinced the MTA guards and station police that they were there on official business. Poster Boy and his crew then proceeded to mash up the reproductions in traditional PB-style, meaning Andy Warhol's Marilyn was made to look as though she had a nose job, and a cutout of a race car was positioned to dive into another painting. When they were done, Jaeger staged a fashion shoot in front of Poster Boy's reworked creations, using hired models and a professional photographer (the above model's face is pixelated — says Jaeger, who hopes to sell the images at some point — because he doesn't have permission to use his/her likeness without consent).
"Early on we saw Poster Boy's work, and we realized it was inevitable that if we did this project, his crew would likely see it as an opportunity. Whenever you create something, you want to make sure you're prepared for that," Jaeger says. "What I would hope is that it would cause debate and generate some argument, at a minimum."
MoMA is probably less than pleased with the vandalism of its ambitious advertising campaign by the individual they paid to create it. The museum had purchased all of the advertising space in the station, in what the MTA calls a "station domination." The campaign was scheduled to last six weeks. Yesterday afternoon, though, CBS Outdoor, the billboard-advertising company that installed the works, removed two of the works: "I can confirm for you that the vandalized ads were taken down [Monday] by CBS Outdoor and will be replaced by Wednesday," said Kim Mitchel, the head of MOMA's communications department. "Beyond that, MoMA will have no comment."
Jaeger says he's nervous about the museum's response, but stands by his actions. "I don't know if they like for me to be saluting it," he says of Poster Boy's work. "But if someone who is getting acclaim as an artist does something to your campaign, does it make it less valuable or more valuable?"